Face time: South Ellis


Southern Ellis’ career has allowed him to travel the world, starting as a graduate student at Texas A&M. His thesis project involved the design and construction of a hospital in a remote village in Tanzania. After graduation, he joined HKS as a researcher, which allowed him to conduct research in China, investigate hospital designs across the country, and work in the company’s Shanghai and Dallas offices. Today, he balances the medical planning of various projects and leads the health design graduate studio at the University of Texas at Arlington. Outside the classroom, you will find him focusing on his family and restoring their old home.

What attracted you to a career in healthcare design?

I wandered aimlessly in architecture school, trying to find a career that would allow me to truly influence others. Then, in my junior year at A&M, I met Professor George Mann. In an instant, I can see how the work of my hands brings life and healing. I am here.

What design lessons did you learn in the thesis project you still carry with you today?

Our buildings should be designed with the community, not for the community. During the early design process of Songambele Hospital in Tanzania, I spent some time learning local architectural techniques and meeting people in the village. This allows me to better understand how these building blocks fit into the community environment and how we can incorporate influence into each stage.

How has your experience as a professor affected your work at HKS?

Teaching forces me to learn my trading on a deeper level so that I can explain it in a way that my students can understand. The time in the studio is also a good reminder of why we choose the overall situation and purpose of this field, sometimes after a long day in the weeds of large-scale projects, sometimes it is lost. This is revitalization and concentration.

The three healthcare design projects you participated in last year and your role

1 Parkland Moody Clinic, Dallas, medical planner.

2 Medical planner, Pembroke Pines Memorial Cancer Institute, Pembroke, Florida.

3 Integris Baptist Medical Center Heart & ICU Expansion, Oklahoma City, Okla., medical planner.

Three unexpected objects on your desk

1 A panda tie that Professor George Mann gave me in Beijing.

2 Some toy cars of my son. (He called them “wee-wees”.)

3 Catalogue of wooden products of historical buildings.


Outside the office, you will most likely find me…

My wife reads to our two-year-old son Stone and our 6-month-old daughter Storey, or works in our house.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, what new habits have you developed?

Restore historical plaster. We bought a century-old house last year. I spent more than 6 months repairing most of the stucco on the walls and ceiling.

Dog or cat?

Neither. When I grow up, I have a Shetland pony.

Would you like coffee or tea?

Coffee is best paired with breakfast tacos.

Fiction or non-fiction?


Window or aisle seat?

aisle. I am tall, so it is very helpful.

How did you make your first dollar?

mowing the lawn. I look forward to the day when I can outsource this job to my son.

Your preferred karaoke song.

BeyoncĂ©’s “Single Lady”. I usually don’t sing it; I dance. This is really likable in China.

The first album you bought

“Space Jam: Music” soundtrack.

Your hidden talent

I’m the starting quarterback of my high school football team. In Texas, in the land of Friday Night Light, this is a big deal. I can still “throw a football on their mountain”.

If you were not an architect, you would…

If teaching is not restricted, I will become a developer. It will be interesting to participate in the development of a broader project vision and influence the community within the community.

You have an irrational fear…

Missed the flight. On vacation with the family, I tend to arrive at the airport earlier than my wife hopes.


Quote “Remember, you are special because I created you. And I can’t make mistakes.”-“You Are Special” by Max Lucado.

Movie role William Wallace in “Brave Heart.” He bravely launched a campaign, fought and eventually died, so that his countrymen would know freedom.

Weekend activities I spend most of the weekend repairing things in our house.

Band/Music Artist Maggie Amini.

colour Benjamin Moore’s white dove.

Guilty pleasure Watching “The Last Dance” wildly.

Application/website Build Show Network, especially Brent Hull videos about historic buildings.

Snacks while traveling Honey roasted peanuts.

Ice cream flavor pistachio.

sports College football.

team Five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.

Visit the city Cusco, Peru. Came here on our honeymoon. This is the perfect combination of history, beautiful architecture and incredible food, nestled in rugged mountains.

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